December 2014

PHNRC Completes Critical Prairie Seeding Process.

Sunday December 7th saw a record number of volunteers from the community and a few dedicated stewards from other conservation programs come together to complete the massive seeding project at the 5 acre ComEd bike path prairie restoration project. Even Mother Nature cooperated by serving up a perfect day with little or no wind or 

It was the final step in a summer long project that began with the herbiciding of the existing Eurasian grasses, mowing the remains, brush combing and removing the thatch before the seeding could take place. Eight-four pounds of native seeds, comprised of over 70 species of grasses, sedges and forbs were sown over the restoration area. Click here to see the plant list.
Preparation began earlier in the morning with seed mix being weighed and filled into distribution buckets. Volunteers received instructions, picked up their buckets and proceeded out to the field that had been delineated into lanes. Working side by side with two people in a lane, volunteers proceeded to pre-determined markers in the lanes as a way to regulate seed distribution. Refill buckets were brought out to the seeders to replenish their supply at the markers. In the end, the seeding was accomplished in less than two hours.
Having completed the seeding volunteers gathered to roast Polish Kielbasa and marshmallows around the fire before setting off for the holidays. As if to have the last word, Mother Nature plans on freezing rain and sleet tonight, the perfect exclamation point to a long, happy chapter in the restoration story.

The Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission would like to thank all of the volunteers who participated in the many phases of this project. This project would not be possible without your help. We look forward to reconvening in the spring to see the fruits of our labors.

Reflecting on a Great Year for Prospect Height's Natural Resources

As 2014 comes to a close, it is a good time to reflect on a year of real accomplishment and gain for the natural resources of Prospect Heights. 

Drawing on dedicated community of volunteers, much progress was made this year on our two largest projects, the Prospect Heights slough restoration and the ComEd bike path prairie restoration. 
Without a doubt, the slough restoration is the most dramatic in it's transformation. Residents may be hard pressed at this point to remember the impenetrable wall of buckthorn that choked out native flora and fauna and made it virtually impossible to see the slough from the street. The photo below on the right shows the dramatic contrast of an area that was opened to the untouched wall. The left photo reminds us of just how daunting our starting point was.
Volunteer perseverance and dedication made it possible early on to purge most of the north end of the slough of buckthorn with saws and loppers but progress was slow.

With the approval to use power tools by mid-summer, the removal process was kicked into high gear with the addition of the chainsaw crew, a wench and other assorted power tools. The chainsaw guys are a major force in  this years progress. They are the main reason behind the dramatic changes in the landscape. If you compare the right photo above to the panorama, you can begin to understand the impact they have had.
Along with the ongoing removal, other areas within the site were being prepared for seeding of native plants and plugs in the spring. It is all part of the comprehensive plan to restore the slough to native splendor.

Late September saw us split the work days between buckthorn removal and seed collection from our own remnant prairies for the ComEd prairie restoration. Great personal investment in the process by key members of the commission and help from our volunteer base produced 30 pounds of native seeds. 
In addition to collection, the seeds needed to be separated and processed for planting, a tedious and time consuming task to say the least. That whole process spawned the idea of the "Prairie in a Packet" program as part of our outreach efforts. With the dual purpose of creating more native plantings and continuing our education program, we distributed 375 native Illinois prairie flower seed packets to the students of the Betsy Ross School in an effort to educate them about the importance of local, native plants to the bird, bee and butterfly populations. Students were given the seed packs with instructions on when and how to plant. Seed packets were also presented to Mayor Helmer and the Aldermen at the October City Council meeting.
Finally, major progress was made on the ComEd bike path prairie restoration project. While seed collection and the seeding the prairie involved the volunteer community, special recognition needs to go out to our commissioners Agnes Wojnarski and Marcia Jendreas for the major roles they played in bringing the project to fruition. They diligently oversaw the herbicide process, the mowing sessions, the brush combing and laying out the seeding lanes. Without their special efforts, this would not have happened.

In conclusion, it has been a very prosperous year for the natural resources of Prospect Heights. It has gained a prairie, rediscovered the splendor of its slough, seen the introduction of beet juice technology to cut down on salt use surrounding the slough, increased micro native plant gardens and made Prospect Heights an even better place to live.

We would like to give a shoutout to all of the people and volunteers who have invested in their community and contributed in a great variety of ways.

Our wonderful volunteer base          Mayor Helmer                       Commonwealth Edison
Openlands                                       The Chainsaw Crew              Agnes's Babcia Krysia
The Prospect Heights Aldermen      All of the PHNRC Commissioners and their Spouses  
Dr. John Hilty                                   Jamie Redmond                     
Tricia Bethke - Coordinator for Adult Educational Programming at Morton Arboretum        

Izabella Redlinski - Restoration Ecologist                              The Poplar Creek Stewards
Rick McAndless - Resource Conservationist at NCCSWCD, Steward of Poplar Creek  
    Ken Schaeffer from Oakton Community College 
Mike and Pat Horcher form Horcher Farms                     

Kathy Nowicki - Executive Director of Prospect Heights Park District - PHNRC Liaison
Steve Cutaia - Director of Prospect Heights Public Works - PHNRC Liaison
All of the crew at the Prospect Heights Park District and Old Orchard Golf Course 

The guy who let us park at his building when we were seed collecting  

We look forward to the coming new year with great hope and energy for our programs and their results and wish you all the best for a joyous holiday and a prosperous new year.

Commissioner Wojnarski receives the 

Woodland Stewardship Certificate

PHNRC's Commissioner and Chairperson, Agnes Wojnarski was awarded a
Level II Steward Supervisor certificate in the Woodland Stewardship program at the annual  Morton Arboretum  "Natural Areas Volunteer Wrap Up" event on Saturday, December 6th. 

Agnes has been taking numerous classes in Botany, Plant ID, Local Flora and Ecology over the last two plus years at the Morton Arboretum and recently completed an extensive certificate program which taught her many important concepts about woodland, prairie and wetland conservation and management. In addition to Prospect Heights, Commissioner Wojnarski volunteers her time in natural areas at the Cook County Forest Preserves and the Morton Arboretum.
Kurt Dreisilker, Head of Natural Resources at The Morton Arboretum recognized Commissioner Wojnarski for her outstanding commitment to restoring and improving the health of our natural areas. During his remarks, he highlighted the newly formed Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission and all that has been accomplished as a result of dedicated volunteer efforts. He commended 
many of the volunteer restoration and conservation initiatives at The Morton Arboretum as well as natural areas outside of the arboretum. 
The Commission would like to especially thank Tricia Bethke, Coordinator of Adult Education Programs at the arboretum, for coming to the ComEd Bike Trail Prairie Seeding on December 7th! Her invaluable help, kindness and enthusiastic spirit were very appreciated by all.

Sunday the 21th of December is the Last Workday of the Year. 

Sunday the 21st is last work day of 2014. We will be removing and burning the invasive buckthorn from the slough area on Hillside Avenue. We will begin at 9:00 am on Hillside Avenue and go to 12:00 pm. It will be cold so please dress warmly in layers. Come when you can and stay as long as you can. A festive holiday time is guaranteed for all! Treats will be provided. 

In the event that weather prohibits working that day, an email will be sent out on Sunday at 7:00 am to officially cancel the event. Happy holidays and all the best for a joyous and prosperous new year.

Copyright © 2014 Prospect Heights Natural Resources Commission, All rights reserved.

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